Karodia, Farida 1942-
KARODIA, Farida 1942-
PERSONAL: Born 1942, in Aliwal North, Republic of South Africa; immigrated to Canada, 1969; daughter of Ebrahim and Mary Elizabeth Karodia; married (divorced, c. 1966); children: one daughter. Education: University of Calgary, B.Ed.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Penguin Books, P.O. Box 9, Parklands 2121, Johannesburg, South Africa; c/o Author Mail, David Philip Publishers, P.O. Box 23408, Claremont 7735, 208 Werdmuller Centre, Newry St., Claremont, Cape Town 7700, South Africa.
CAREER: Short story writer, novelist, and scriptwriter for radio. Also worked as a teacher.
AWARDS, HONORS: Special mention, Banff Film Festival, for television drama Midnight Embers, 1992.
Daughters of the Twilight, Women's Press (London, England), 1986.
A Shattering of Silence, Heinemann (Portsmouth, NH), 1993.
Other Secrets, Penguin (Johannesburg, South Africa), 2000.
Boundaries, Penguin (Johannesburg, South Africa), 2003.
Coming Home and Other Stories (short stories), Heinemann (London, England), 1988.
Against an African Sky and Other Stories(short stories), D. Philip (Cape Town, South Africa), 1995.
Work represented in numerous anthologies, including Her Mother's Ashes, Tsar (Toronto, Canada), 1998, and Opening Spaces, Heinemann (London, England), and Seeds of Discontent, both published in 1999, and South African Indian Writings in English, Madiba Publishers (South Africa), 2000. Wrote a children's book with Danish illustrator Maikki Harjanne that was distributed to schools in South Africa. Author of Midnight Embers, a half-hour drama for television. Also author of radio dramas for Canadian Broadcast Corporation (CBC).
WORK IN PROGRESS: A novel set in India and Canada.
SIDELIGHTS: Farida Karodia was born and raised in the Eastern Cape, but spent much of her adult life in Canada. Most of her fiction is set in South Africa, where she returned in 1994. Karodia told CA, "My writing is slowly moving beyond the South African settings, which feature so prominently in all of my work. Part of Other Secrets is set in London and in Boundaries a substantial part of the book is set in Canada. The book I am currently working on is set in India and Canada."
Karodia explained her writing process to CA: "A main character 'arrives' in my head, usually very clearly defined. I then set about developing this character, providing a setting and a problem. By this time I might know the ending, but not necessarily the story line or how the story will begin and it often takes several false starts for me to find the right voice. The rest, of course, is hard work—at least four to five hours a day, sometimes twelve to fifteen hours of writing, until I have the first draft of the story—usually a skeletal draft which is much more than an outline."
Karodia's novel Daughters of the Twilight follows the plight of an Indian family of shopkeepers living in South Africa. The oldest daughter of the family receives a good education, but after the Group Areas Act passes, the younger daughter finds herself classified as a "coloured" person, so she cannot receive the same education as her sister. This is only one of the family's problems. When the area in which they live is designated a "whites only" area, they must relocate and rebuild their lives from scratch. Michelene Wandor, writing in the British Book News, noted that Daughters of the Twilight "is a most assured piece of work, riveting and moving."
Karodia followed the novel with a collection of short stories, Coming Home and Other Stories. The stories have a variety of narrators—black, white, and "coloured"—and many of them have violent underpinnings in their discussions about South Africa. "Racists and sadists roam through these pages with impunity," wrote J. R. Moehringer in a review of the book in the New York Times Book Review, noting that "what remains is Ms. Karodia's clear vision of the South African tragedy."
In Karodia's novel A Shattering of Silence, a middle-aged white woman returns to Mozambique, where she had spent her youth as a revolutionary in the country's decades-long war. Much of the story is told in flashback and the woman eventually comes to terms with her past. In a World Literature Today review of A Shattering of Silence, Sheila Roberts observed sections of the book where "the writing loses its liveliness and color," but found that "the depictions of the effects of war on populations, towns, and villages are compelling."
Karodia has produced another collection of short stories. Like Coming Home and Other Stories, Against an African Sky and Other Stories features a collection of multicultural narrators speaking about (and reacting to) life in South Africa. Reviewer Adele S. Newson, in a World Literature Today review, described this collection of five stories as "an exciting commentary on post-apartheid South Africa" and concluded that it offers "a convincing mosaic of the country."
Karodia received much critical acclaim for her novel Other Secrets, the first part of which is a reworking of her earlier novel Daughters of Twilight. Other Secrets focuses on the tumultuous relationships between sisters and mothers and daughters. The brazen and beautiful Yasmin captures most of her mother's attention, leaving sister Meena feeling as if she lives in her shadow. Yasmin later leaves the small town of her childhood, casting off her elderly family and a child conceived out of rape. Meena proves herself strong and capable as she takes charge of her family's care. Sunday Times reviewer Penny Sukhraj praised Karodia's characterization, saying, "It has been a long time since I have come across a novel where the storyteller draws the reader into the lives of her characters so intimately." Sukhraj described the story as "unpredictable in the way it unfolds, unravels and again binds together the lives of the main players." Writing in the Pretoria News, reviewer Orielle Berry termed Other Secrets a "multi-faceted book," and explained, "When you read it, it's like peeling off the many layers of an onion, with each layer revealing a different aspect, not only of a tightly knit family, but of the comings and goings of a small town." "The only criticism of Other Secrets is that Karodia spends too much time exploring mundane scenes of everyday life, and too little time on life-changing events such as the hostility of local Afrikaner girls to Yasmin's obvious charm and beauty," noted Sukhraj.
Yasmin and Meena grow up in South Africa during the apartheid years. Observed Sunday Tribune reviewer Vasantha Angamuth, "Refreshingly, Other Secrets makes comment of the features of apartheid but is not overwhelmed by it." Sukhraj felt that South Africa's political situation "serves indirectly to steer Meena and Yasmin to strive for more—a life of equality and freedom."
In an interview published on the Africa News Service, Karodia explained that, as an only child, Other Secrets is not autobiographical. Karodia drew from her experiences with extended family and friends to create her characters. "Most of the women I knew as a child, while growing up in South Africa during the apartheid era, were strong and determined women and I often draw inspiration from them and use them as role models in my stories," Karodia told CA.
Most of Boundaries takes place in sleepy Vlenterhoek, a South African town with exceptional air and water that has remained untouched by the country's new democracy. Town clerk Danie Venter feels that the town's assets are strong enough to turn it into a tourist attraction. The development of a major health spa is planned and a film company may use the town's surroundings as the background of a documentary. "All of this hangs together fairly loosely and with good humour. It's a gentle, rather than sharp, satirical take on an easily-recognisable place peopled with the usual suspects," remarked Beverley Roos Muller in a review published on the Cape Argus Web site.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Buck, Claire, editor, The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Fiction, Prentice Hall (New York, NY), 1992.
Africa News Service, September 8, 2000, Dr. Rajendra Chetty, "Mother of Invention: Farida Karodia's New Book Updates Her First Novel."
British Book News, December, 1986, p. 711.
Choice, September, 1991, p. 41.
New Statesman, October 31, 1986, p. 31.
New York Times Book Review, February 19, 1989, p. 20.
Observer (London, England), October 19, 1986, p. 27.
Pretoria News, September 27, 2000, Orielle Berry, "Multi-Faceted Book Attempts to Break Down Walls."
Sunday Times, September 24, 2002, Penny Sukhraj, "The Intimate Story of a Favoured Daughter."
Sunday Tribune, August 10, 2000, Vasantha Angamuthu, "Family Secrets."
World Literature Today, winter, 1990, pp. 182-183; spring, 1994, p. 416; spring, 1998, Adele S. Newson, review of Against an African Sky and Other Stories, pp. 445-447.
Cape Argus Web site, http://www.capeargus.vo.za/ (December 19, 2003), Beverley Roos Muller, "Gently Satirical Tale Is Idea for the Holidays."